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Holiday - Revealed: The hidden secrets of the Canaries.

I HAVE never been a snitch, but I must confess one of the real delights of travel writing for more than 30 years is to share some of the trade's best kept secrets ...

However, one small, but beautifully formed tour operator has beaten me to it when it comes to uncovering the hidden pleasures of the wonderful and unique Canary Islands.

Studying the new, full-colour brochure from Worcestershire-based Travellers Way is an absolute revelation.

Even though I claim to know the islands as well as the back of my sun-tanned hand, I promise they've come up with some

interesting finds for holidaymakers seeking more than the well-worn tourist route.

And, unlike many of their counterparts, they've openly identified some of the cheapest and quietest months for getting the very best out of holidays on these noted sunshine hotspots.

May, June, September and October are recommended as the best time to visit with the climate more reliable than most Mediterranean destinations.

The sea is warmer and, most importantly, flights and accommodation can be snapped up at prices cheaper than shorter haul holidays.

So, armed with sound advice, just what is on offer?

Well, beach holidays in Fuerteventura, the second largest island and the one closest to Africa, take a lot of beating.

Despite a massive upsurge in visitors, the island itself is still one of the least populated and developed in the archipelago.

There are only a few, scattered villages in the volcanic and barren interior - although the scenery is really dramatic with jagged mountain peaks offsetting valleys of lichen-covered lava broken up by tiny whitewashed houses.

Most visitors head for Corralejo, which was once a small fishing village but, over the last few years, has grown into the busy ferry port for nearby Lanzarote.

The good thing is that development has been confined to low rise properties so the old village still retains much of its character and charm.

A group of 30 small bungalows - Estrella Del Mar - set in lovely gardens, each with a private sun terrace and superb swimming pool, can be rented for as little as pounds 199 a head for a week.

Attractively furnished, each bungalow has one bedroom, but two children aged under 12 years, can sleep confortably on a sofa bed in the lounge, too.

A week at the two-bedroom Casa Calamares bungalow in Lanzarote would cost you the same price.

Lanzarote has been nicknamed 'fire island' because of its 300, now extinct, volcanoes. But the extraordinary lava fields left behind have become a major tourist attraction in the Timafaya National Park.

I particularly enjoyed my visit to the tranquil underground caves and lake at Jameos de Agua, and the spectacular clifftop views of the tiny island of Graciosa from Mirador del Rio.

Travellers' Way have also uncovered some rare finds - with superb and unusual rural hotels on the biggest island, Tenerife.

The Costa Salida, for example, on the island's north-west coast, is a small family-run hotel with only 13 bedrooms. Although the old building has been lovingly restored, it still retains its rustic charm.

And if you enjoy a drop or two of excellent local wines, it has its own bodega which is open every day.

A week's half-board stay in October costs pounds 415 a head, based on two sharing a twin bedroom, dropping to pounds 351 a head in May next year.

Or you could holiday at the Old School House in one of the cobbled streets in the Gran Canaria town of Santa Maria de Guia, famed for its bananas and fine cheeses.

The fully-restored house is built around a central courtyard and has two floors - and a flat roof which is ideal for a bit of sun-bathing!

I'm tempted to tell you more ...but I'll let you find out those other secrets for yourself.

For details call 01527 578000 or write to Travellers' Way, The Barns, Hewell Lane, Tardebigge, Bromsgrove, Worcs B60 1LP.
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Author:Bennett, Ken
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 8, 2000
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